Why Job Seekers Need to Focus on Tiny Wins


When you’re in the thick of the job search, you start to feel like you’re moving slower than a sloth. Like the more you move towards your goal, the farther away the goal becomes. 

At this rate, you wonder if you’ll ever get an interview, let alone a job offer. Why does everything take so long? 

  • How did it take me an entire WEEK to update my resume? 
  • How have I only applied to 4 jobs? 
  • Where did this month go? 

Rest assured: feeling impatient is a normal part of the job search process. And it’s frustrating. Here’s why it’s time to shift your perspective and let yourself appreciate the small steps you’re taking: 

Why tiny wins matter

There’s something we all forget when it comes to chasing our goals: no one is successful overnight. We always see the result and think success comes easy for everyone else but ourselves. That’s just not the case. 

The truth is: success takes a lot of small movements in the right direction. “Small wins have a transformational power,” educator Mehrnaz Bassiri says. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion to favor another small win and another small win until the combination of these small wins lead to larger and greater accomplishments.”

Over time, your achievements, however small, compound on each other, too. One day you’ll open your email to find your official job offer letter and you’ll forget about how draining the job search felt at times. 

How to focus on tiny wins in your job search  

Staying motivated in the job search isn’t easy. Here are four ways to shift your focus on the positive and reignite your determination to keep going: 

1. Be specific about your goals.

Want to become a software engineer? Marketing manager? Sales director? Whatever you have your sights on, say it out loud. Write it down. Your goal is only a daydream until you articulate it in some way.  Besides, if your goals only exist in your mind, you’re giving yourself another reason to feel overwhelmed (and you’re overwhelmed enough as it is!). 

Once you figure out your main goal, dig deeper and make it even more specific. Try creating SMART goals to make sure you’re clear about how to track your progress. Here’s what SMART goals might look like in the job search: 

  • Specific: “I want to become a financial analyst at a health tech company.” 
  • Measurable: “I’ll apply to 5 financial analyst jobs at health tech companies.” 
  • Achievable: “I’ll update my cover letter to apply to 5 financial analyst positions.”
  • Relevant: “Becoming a financial analyst will help me develop skills to become a director of finance one day.” 
  • Time-Based: “I’ll update my resume and apply to 5 jobs this month.”

Even if you’re not much of a writer, a little planning will go a long way. Take some time this week to determine your short-term career goals with the SMART goal-setting method. Not sure where to start with your career goals? Set up a low-pressure, complimentary consultation to get ideas. 

2. Break your goals into smaller achievements.  

How many times have you seen a LinkedIn post about someone’s new promotion and thought: “That won’t happen to me. They’re just lucky.”

The reality is: we don’t see the full picture behind others’ accomplishments. Time, effort, energy, and training aren’t celebrated. Neither is patience. 

But if I run one mile today, will I be ready for my first marathon tomorrow? Probably not. Just like applying for ten jobs now won’t make you CEO tomorrow. “It’s time to adopt a human-sized scale to assess our efforts,” says author Rob Smith

Hitting goals is a slow, steady build—so give yourself some grace. Here are some ways to break your big career goals into smaller achievements: 

#1: Understand the skills you have. 

Before you pick jobs to apply to, think about the skills you already have and how they relate to your goal position. 

#2: Choose your ideal position. 

Research on sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, or Career Contessa. Scan through different job titles and see what sparks some excitement. 

#3: Update your resume. 

Use job descriptions and job requirements to tailor your resume to specific postings. Still stuck? Get some guidance with a quick resume audit this month.  

#4: Find easy tasks for when you’re not feeling motivated.

Here are some ideas to push your career forward on the days you don’t feel like searching for jobs: 

Small accomplishments don’t feel exciting, but they’re essential. Every checkmark on your to-do list brings you closer to your ideal career. 

3. Jot down your accomplishments every day. 

Little achievements often go unnoticed, but smaller wins keep you motivated. Find confidence by keeping track of your accomplishments every day. 

Maybe today’s accomplishment includes getting out of bed and sending one networking email. Maybe tomorrow’s accomplishment will be tailoring your resume and cover letter for a new field. Don’t worry about everything you didn’t do today. Instead, ask yourself: “What did I do right today?”  

  • What am I relieved I accomplished today? 
  • What am I proud of doing?
  • What steps did I take towards my goals today? 

Pull out your notes app. Or grab a journal. Write 1-3 accomplishments for the day. Make it a part of your dinner or evening routine.

4. Celebrate the little things. 

Who has the time to celebrate at a time like this? 

I know, it sounds a little extravagant—celebrating the checkmarks on your to-do list. Especially if it feels like your list keeps growing every day. But when you reward yourself, you’ll find the internal motivation you need to keep going. 

Let’s face it: staying motivated without some positive reinforcement is hard. If there’s something you’re avoiding doing, promise yourself a mini celebration or reward to kickstart the inspiration you need. 

Keep it simple. Think SHORT and SWEET celebrations. If I submit this job application I can…

  • Go for a walk with my pup. 
  • Grab a cup of coffee. 
  • Take a break with a little snack.  
  • Start my weekend at 3 pm this Friday. 

Pick something to give you the break you need to recharge and appreciate the small steps you’re taking in the right direction.  

Be kinder to yourself 

The job search isn’t easy. As much as we want to tell ourselves it’ll be quick and painless, big goals always take longer than we think. So be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can with the time you have. 

Feeling stuck? Unmotivated? Let’s talk. Set up a free consultation today! 


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